Happy Scribe
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Back in the late 1970s, when he was trying to open a new casino, Donald Trump handed over some tax returns to gambling officials in the state of New Jersey, according to those returns, for two years.

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It was in 1978 and 1979. He paid absolutely nothing in federal income tax.

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I don't mind releasing I'm under a routine audit and it'll be released. During a presidential debate four years ago, Hillary Clinton said maybe that was the reason Trump had been reluctant to release his tax returns.

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The only years that anybody's ever seen where a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities, when he was trying to get a casino license and they showed he didn't pay any federal income tax. So that makes zero. That means zero for troops, zero for vets, zero for school. That was 2016.

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And I think this Tuesday night there's another debate in another election. And this time we know a lot more. The president paid just 750 dollars in federal income tax for the year 2016 and 2017. And for 10 of the 15 years before that, he paid no federal income taxes at all. That's according to a story published Sunday by The New York Times which said Trump basically told the government he lost more money than he made. It's a story that could play a role in Tuesday night's presidential debate, which was already going to be pretty dramatic.

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Consider this big political news keeps breaking, but almost a million Americans have voted already. So what effect could this debate have on the race? From NPR. I'm Audie Cornish. It's Monday, September 28th. This message comes from NPR sponsor Twilio, a customer engagement platform trusted by millions of developers, enabling you to reinvent how you connect with your customers. Whatever your use case, Twilio has your back. It's time to build visit Twilio Dotcom. Support for this NPR podcast and the following message come from Better Help online counselling by licensed professional counselors specializing in isolation, depression, stress and anxiety visit better help.

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Dotcom's consider to learn more and get 10 percent off your first month. With the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the president is hoping to fill the seat with a conservative judge and evangelicals who play an important part in American politics have been waiting for this moment. But how did evangelicals become such a powerful force? Listen now to the history of evangelicals on the Throughline podcast from NPR. It's consider this from NPR around this point in 2016, less than 10000 Americans had voted in the presidential election this election season.

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As of Sunday, almost a million people had already voted.

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A million votes is unprecedented in American politics. We've never seen this number of people cast ballots so early in the election.

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Michael McDonald runs the U.S. Elections Project at the University of Florida. He says there are a few reasons why so many more people have already voted this year.

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More states have made it possible to vote early and more people want to.

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There's about a two to one advantage that the Democrats have over the Republicans in either the ballots that have been requested or the ballots that have actually been cast. That early advantage could balance out when Republicans show up at the polls in person, McDonald says. Which brings us to one more big part of all this. You may have noticed we called it election season. That's because Election Day this year means less than it did in the past. Many votes that have already been mailed in won't be counted until Election Day or later.

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And we may not know the winner until days or weeks after November 3rd. When the president and former vice president meet in Cleveland on Tuesday, it will be for the first of three debates. The second is October 15th. The third is October 22nd. And there was a vice presidential debate next week with voting already underway. The debates are one of the last big shots for each candidate to reach the small number of voters who are still persuadable. Here's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

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The first presidential debate of the 2012 election comes at a moment of high anxiety for the country.

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The public is fed up and we are so on edge with the passing of a Supreme Court justice, with an economy that is one edge is a virus that is now taking 200000 lives with another city up in flames. It seems each day.

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That's Republican strategist Frank Luntz, who conducts focus groups with at least a thousand voters every week.

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He says they are simply worn out and they want a sense of normality. Again, they want to return to their day to day lives safely, sensibly and responsibly. And that is how they will judge the two candidates Tuesday.

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Luntz says the voters tuning into the debate don't want to see a cage match or a bloodbath, and that poses a particular problem for the incumbent. Donald Trump needs to change the dynamic of the race from a referendum on his leadership to a binary choice between him and Joe Biden.

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Is it tough for Donald Trump? But it requires a discipline and a focus that is often not shown, and it requires him not to make the kind of personal attacks that have made voters so angry with him.

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Personal attacks like the ones he aims at Joe Biden almost every day, the baseless accusation that Biden takes performance enhancing drugs, they give him a big fat shot in the ass and he comes out.

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And for two hours is better than ever before. That's false, just like Trump's attack that Biden is senile, sleepy Joe. He also says Biden isn't tough enough.

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You know, in his best days, 25, 30 years ago, he was weak. He was weak as a senator. He was weak. He was not known as being one of the smart ones.

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But Republican consultant Brett O'Donnell, who has run debate prep for conservative candidates from George W. Bush to Boris Johnson, says Trump has no choice. He has to attack Biden in any way he can.

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The president should go on offense and he should stay on offense because that's the way he can make Biden make errors in the debate. And the president has never been reticent about attacking his opponents at a personal level. And he certainly should be on offense if he wants to make this a choice election.

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For Biden, the debates also present some difficult challenges. Donald Trump is a terrible debater. It is terribly difficult to debate Donald Trump, that's Felipe Rinus who played Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton's debate prep sessions. He says Biden should try not to take the bait.

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This is really a matter of two people mostly having a conversation with the moderator, and they're doing so in the form of talking to the camera. I mean, you're going to have a Super Bowl sized crowd watching and listening audience, and you really have to take advantage of that. And every minute that Joe Biden is sparring with Donald Trump, it's a problem.

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Biden has said he also plans to be a fact checker in his debates with Trump. But former Obama White House political strategist Dan Pfeiffer says that should not be his primary goal.

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Despite Biden's lead, there still remains a dearth of knowledge about his agenda and who he is. This is his best chance to get his message out and cement his lead.

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There are other hurdles for Biden, even though the Trump campaign has unintentionally lowered expectations by attacking him relentlessly as old and out of it. Biden will still need to reassure voters that he's up to the job in the end, says Frank Luntz.

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The debate will come down to this when there is no similarity and no overlap between what these two candidates stand for and what they would do if that is only about personality.

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So this is not just about who's got a better plan for the economy or for whom they trust more and they want to be in their lives for the next four years, Lunts figures there's only six percent of voters who are truly undecided and only about a third of them live in competitive states. So tomorrow's debate will have a huge audience, a tiny target and very high stakes. That's NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson. So both candidates will play to a small group of undecided voters tomorrow night, voters that could make all the difference in a tight race.

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Most polls show Joe Biden with a steady but still surmountable lead.

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NPR's Scott Detro has this look at what to expect from the former vice president based on his approach in past debates for Joe Biden in the primary, debates were mostly unmemorable and well, at times, Rocky, he had some early stumbles, like confusing a number to text with a website.

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If you agree with me. Go to Joe three oh three three oh and help me in this fight, Biden's campaign mostly viewed the crowded debates as something to take part in and move on from.

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They didn't think they'd change the race. But as the primary turned into a two man contest between Biden and Bernie Sanders, Biden got sharper. That was especially true in March in the only one on one debate between the two candidates.

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Bernie's implication is some are being funded by millionaires. But look, in the last Super Tuesday and before that, Bernie outspent me two, three, four, five, six to one and I still won.

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I didn't have any money. And I still want.

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Dan Senor is an expert on Biden's debate strategy, the Republican operative prep then Congressman Paul Ryan for the 2012 vice presidential debate. His main question going into tomorrow is how the Biden campaign views the race.

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Do they think they're winning and they just have to not screw it up? And are they running the clock?

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If so, CNR expects that Joe Biden, who debated Sarah Palin in 2008, someone there to look presidential and mostly kind of ignore the opponent standing across the stage. But if the Biden campaign sees a reason to tangle with President Trump's, Yinnar would expect the Biden who came to the 2012 debate with Ryan ready to interrupt and dismiss his opponent's arguments as malarkey. Biden's camp is hinting toward the first approach. Campaign manager Jen O'Malley Dillon recently talked to Politico about the debate.

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Our strategy being speaking directly to the American people, speaking about the issues that are impacting people like covid, like the economy, school reopening health care, Social Security.

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But at the same time, the campaign is also hinting Biden will likely be much more aggressive with Trump than he was with any Democratic rivals. Fascher, who managed Bernie Sanders campaign, is well aware Biden has that ability.

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Biden can be an aggressor in these debates and will jump at the opportunity to frame it up because he knows where this conversation is going to go. He's no dummy savvy has been in politics for a while.

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Like Trump, Sanders went into his one on one debate behind Biden in the polls, hoping that a weak debate performance from Biden could shift the race. But Biden came out swinging, preemptively criticizing Sanders for voting against the 2008 bank bailout, which had been a mainstay of Sanders attacks against Biden.

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Had those banks all gone under, all those people Bernie says he cares about would be in deep trouble, deep, deep trouble. All those little folks would have gone out of business.

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Shakir does expect Trump to attack Biden personally and to try to set traps for him to create viral or memorable moments at his rival's expense. Still, Dan Senor thinks it's Biden, not Trump, whose performance is most important.

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The analogy I keep thinking of is Reagan and Carter in 80. In that race, voters had mostly soured on Jimmy Carter but were unsure of Ronald Reagan. Carter's campaign had framed Reagan as dangerous.

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They painted this picture of Reagan that was as a volatile bomb, throwing not entirely their cowboy. Reagan had a good debate and suddenly in the final days of the race is tentative. Lead over an unpopular incumbent shifted fast to a blowout victory. NPR political correspondent Scott Dutrow, it's consider this from NPR. I'm Audie Cornish.